One of the interesting things about trying to teach the principles of Christianity is that God requires us to actually live out what we are encouraging others to do. Go figure! In light of this, I was recently challenged to extend forgiveness in a situation where I had been unjustly treated. Painful? Yes. Beneficial? Absolutely!
In this particular instance the offending party was not a professing Christian, nor does this person have much interaction with true believers in Christ. As I mulled the circumstances in my heart the thought hit me: “If I don’t forgive, then who will? If I don’t extend a hand of grace and heart of forgiveness to this person, who will?”
There are many feel good aspects of being a child of God. The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to call us ambassadors for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Ambassador Bob. Sounds rather regal! I like it!
The Yahoo online dictionary defines ambassador as, “a diplomatic official of the highest rank appointed and accredited as representative in residence by one government or sovereign to another . . .” It is entirely likely that Paul had something like this in mind.
This would mean that every Christian is a diplomatic official of the highest rank serving as a representative of the kingdom of God. Sounds awesome! But Paul also wrote that ambassadors for Christ are given the ministry of reconciliation.
“And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NET)
That God appoints us as His ambassadors is a clear indication that ministry is a partnership between God and man. Sometimes we think that what we do doesn’t matter. How WRONG that is!
We all cherish the New Covenant promise that God will no longer hold our sins against us, but to be a minister of reconciliation means that our actions must be consistent with our message. Part of our job description is to extend this very same measure of mercy toward those who offend us. Jesus modeled this on the cross, as did Stephen when he was being stoned.
“But they covered their ears, shouting out with a loud voice, and rushed at him with one intent. When they had driven him out of the city, they began to stone him, and the witnesses laid their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. They continued to stone Stephen while he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then he fell to his knees and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ When he had said this, he died.” Acts 7:58-60 (NET)
Virtually unlovable, those in the crowd brutally murdered this ambassador of Christ who fulfilled his ministry of reconciliation to the very end. As a result, the young man Saul went on to influence billions of people by penning almost one-third of our New Testament!
Who knows exactly what went on in Stephen’s mind before he died? Perhaps he was thinking, “If I don’t extend a hand of grace and a heart of forgiveness to these enemies of God, who will?”